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First U.S. Drug Company Executive Indicted in Opioid Crisis


By Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press

The former CEO of a U.S. drug distribution company has been indicted on what federal prosecutors say are the first criminal charges against a pharmaceutical company executive to stem from the opioid crisis.

Laurence Doud III, the retired CEO of the Rochester Drug Co-Operative, operated in the fringes of the drug business, obliterating red flags to turn his small New York firm into a supplier of last resort for independent pharmacies whose dubious practices got them cut off by other distributors, an indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges.

Apparently in pursuit of bigger profits for the company and fatter bonuses for himself, Doud encouraged his sales force to sign up new customers with no questions asked, picking up competitors’ rejects as he boasted that his company was “the knight in shining armor” for independent pharmacies, the indictment said.

When Rochester’s largest customer went from buying 70,000 units of oxycodone per month in October 2012 to more than 200,000 units per month a year later, Doud had its back — overruling his own compliance officers and ordering that the pills keep flowing because it was a “big account,” the indictment said.

“This prosecution is the first of its kind: Executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking — trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.

Doud, 75, surrendered to authorities in New York City and is awaiting arraignment on two counts of conspiracy related to drug trafficking. His lawyer said he would fight the charges. Doud, who retired in 2017, alleged in a lawsuit last year that Rochester Drug Co-Operative tried using him as a scapegoat for its legal and regulatory troubles.

Rochester Drug Co-Operative and another former executive were also charged. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, and former compliance chief William Pietruszewski reached a cooperation agreement.

If convicted, Doud faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

AP Photo Kathy Willens

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